Wednesday, July 27, 2005

these days i've been forgetting where my heart is!

fuggit, a few christopher doyle quotes to help me grow some chest hairs back.

"I went to France and tried to learn cinematography. Then I realized that I didn't care. So I came back to making films as I could. I think I started to know what I was doing in the middle of "Days of Being Wild." You can't learn how to make films. You gotta make mistakes and you have to appropriate the mistakes, and then you learn from those things. Then you have a voice.

I went to Taiwan to study Chinese and, as usual, I hung out in bars, and people in bars are usually musicians and artistic kinds of people. I had accumulated a little life experience so I could articulate things which were a little bit more complex than I could actually do and for some reason Edward Yang trusted me. And then we made this film that won all these awards and I didn't know what I was doing. I fluked it.

My best film is always my next film. I couldn't make Chungking Express now, because of the way I live and drink I've forgotten how I did it. I don't believe in film school or film theory. Just try and get in there and make the bloody film, do good work and be with people you love.

I was born five months after my parents were married, so I understand why mistakes have informed my world."

love it, live it!
high five your friends goodbye, walk down the stairs, tip toe out, close the front gate slowly, light your cigarette, walk down regent, try not to wake the homeless up, peek into bars for familiar faces, turn onto telegraph, share a cigarette with a stranger, say what's up to old guys outside blondie's, ignore traffic lights, cross the street onto campus, walk on the grass, leap over trashcans, take the long way home, all around the library, avoid street lamps, walk in the dark, don't turn around, don't look back, you're almost there, almost out of town.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

like sparkle says, i like animals, but i love baby animals.

vietnamese baby animals

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

float on

floating fishing village in hoa long bay

we took a boat out to hoa long bay and met hundreds and hundreds of massive limestone islands, gigantic curved mountains with names like “turtle rock” and “lovers rock” because of the shapes they take. along some mountains were fishing villages – dozens of multicolored one room homes, like displaced suburban houses, floating and floating in the ocean. the students take a small rowboat to their floating school and children play on their playground on planks, swinging on a fishnet swing.

enough romanticizing, here's a small article on the floating villages: floating fishing village angles for life on land (i hate articles that frame vietnam as a "tragedy" but fuggit, it's an informative read.)

needleworkers on display

on our ride to hoa long bay, we stopped at this art pit stop for tourists, all sorts of ao dais, fabrics, purses, and paintings for sale. at the back of the store they kept rows and rows of needleworkers, all youth, patching and stitching in colors all day long. their backs distorted, shoulders misaligned from all the crouching over. it's paint by numbers, in a way: design is pre-drawn so they just have to fill in the blanks.

don't get it: why display the sweatshop? so tourists buy more because they know the work is authentically handcrafted? so tourists buy more because they take pity on the workers?

like finding a crumpled love letter you wrote when you were eight buried in your sock drawer, i’ve found a new favorite film, something quite captivating and haunting, a 70s Spanish film called "the spirit of the beehive" (el esperitu de la colmena), set upon a time in the castilla plains at the end of the spanish civil war, we find ana, an eight year old, unable to forget “Frankenstein,” a movie she just watched in her village’s makeshift theatre, and determined to discover “the spirit” her older sister said she saw in the forest.

it’s oh so quiet, and i’ve been loving quiet movies lately, movies that don’t talk, but rather whisper in your ear, like kim ki duk’s “samaritan girl” and tsai ming liang’s “goodbye dragon inn.”

the director, victor erice, is a mysterious one, only three movies in the past thirty years, but his cinematographer, luis cuadrado, who sculpted this dreamworld even more so – he was going blind as he was shooting the movie.
dope, jeff chang and sylvia chan share their thoughts on "crash" over at alternet.

a snippet:

"JC: For Haggis, the “crash" is the metaphor that holds everything together. He seems to believe race is only discussed when we collide with each other, and friction starts. It’s a very interesting concept that resonates post-riots, post 9/11. But there's very little character development in the movie, and even less insight into race.

SC: The entire notion that racism can be instigated by “crashes” and collisions is steeped in a certain perspective: if I don’t crash into you, I’ll never get to know you, because you don’t live in my neighborhood, and I don’t have any friends that are not of my race or class.

The whole idea that you don’t have to think about race until you “crash” into it is not what most people have the luxury of doing. And that is what white privilege is. White privilege is not having to think about race. Which is why I think many people have the reaction they do of coming out of the movie and bawling, thinking they’ve learned something."

for real!


what was up with matt dillon's character? he molests thandie newton and then later on saves her from a fiery car crash? is this supposed to be some sort of redemption for the racist/rapist cop? why does a black woman need to be saved, need to be the tool that allows the white cop to question, rediscover himself? what the fuuuuuug is this?!)

oh, and kiwi also posted an insightful article, "white privilege shapes the us," on his blog.

"Here's what white privilege sounds like: I am sitting in my University of Texas office, talking to a very bright and very conservative white student about affirmative action in college admissions, which he opposes and I support.

The student says he wants a level playing field with no unearned advantages for anyone. I ask him whether he thinks that in the United States being white has advantages. Have either of us, I ask, ever benefited from being white in a world run mostly by white people? Yes, he concedes, there is something real and tangible we could call white privilege. So, if we live in a world of white privilege—unearned white privilege--how does that affect your notion of a level playing field? I ask. He paused for a moment and said, "That really doesn't matter."

That statement, I suggested to him, reveals the ultimate white privilege: the privilege to acknowledge and you have unearned privilege but ignore what it means."

still gotta watch "rize." and "tropical malady." soon, soon, soon.

Monday, July 18, 2005

who says water has no taste, no color, no smell?

water’s got sound, and howls like a stray dog, or airplane take-offs, lives louder than block parties, louder than gunfire and birth moans, water’s got music, in the way it hits your skin, bites your lip, rolls fingers through your hair. we’re all made out of water.

this something that i knew, but trying to know, trying to measure. fifty water drops might be enough to quench my thirst. four hundred maybe to wash my hair. two thousand possibly to do the dishes.

a man in sapa told me a story about a water, of the long drought and famine right after the america-vietnam war, how his family had nothing to eat or drink, and farms dried up, land crumpled and people waited over water pipes, set up buckets and tarps outside for the one day that may rain, and one day a long time away, they heard a murmur in the sky, and water fell swiftly, falling on them.

i felt my face dry as i listened – wrinkled eye brows, parched mouth – and he shrugged it off and casually smiled, “i had no food, that’s why i’m so much smaller than you!”

just appreciation. for my fridge, for my shower, for my dishes. for oceans, streams, rivers, rain, drizzles, ripples, waterfalls, showers, moisture, humidity, lakes, puddles, leaks, downpours, drainage, currents, torrents, surges, and the bay.

(no answers here. but maybe over at worldchanging, a website fighting for a bright green future.)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

i miss Vietnam like i miss music, miss singing to myself along the streets of Hanoi, all across the West Lake one morning, i miss the Black Eyed Peas, and hearing them again and again and again at every bar i drank at in Saigon, and i miss the drums of footsteps, cleavers carving chicken, and fingers borrowing into sticky rice. the rhythms of cigarettes and beer blessings, falling onto the pavement like shooting stars, in between sugar cane drink stands and motorcycle exhaust. i miss how movement there was so full of music. how street corners made me want to bust out a fat cigar and just smoke myself to sleep. how my backbone just felt so at ease there.

fuck, it was a mistake for me to leave so early.

but things happen, I guess, and this trip has left so many holes in me. reuniting with Hong Kong, a city that’s the hustling memory of my childhood, and seeing it in full flesh, “all grown up now.” and Vietnam is a constant stir, a soup that just gets hotter, that tastes different as more things are thrown into it, stories about my grandparents, poetry with my cousins... I got full just of listening to people talk. and my grandmother suddenly passing away, and how all of a sudden my family from all over the world is together around a dinner table in Causeway Bay, tea being poured, a slight uncomfortable silence.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

the funeral went alright, it was a Buddhist affair, so attire was strictly white. there was a michel gondry moment at night: our family, dozens of us, carried a cardboard home, a cardboard mahjong table, 3 paper mahjong players, a fake car wrapped in aluminum foil, a massage chair made out of black duct tape, and a fake “panosonia” stereo system, through empty streets to a dumpster by the South China Sea to set it all on fire. grandma’s gonna have a pimp ride to heaven!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

birthday party: befriended a 43 year old biker, and he drove me around saigon, all along the river, then he took me to a sidewalk bar that served beer on the cheap, like half a buck a beer, and i met a foursome of toothless old men, and one of them spoke english, so we got drunk, and he would translate our conversation in vietnamese for his buddies. then i rode the motorcycle again, and pretended that i was a chicken, and that i got the bird flu, and that i was the terror of the town, screaming woooooooooo waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa weeeeeeeeeee all the way home.
Hmong vow to kill themselves
6 Jul 2005
Bangkok Post


Phetchabun - One of 6,558 ethnic Hmong seeking refuge in Khao Kho district attempted suicide on Monday and 10 others have threatened to kill themselves after being evicted from temporary shelters pending repatriation to Laos.

Last month, National Security Council secretary-general Gen Vinai Pattiyakul said he would seek talks with Vientiane for the repatriation of the Hmong in Khao Kho, whom he said were all illegal immigrants and unlikely to win permission to settle in the United States since there was no evidence any of them had worked for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

About 2,000 of the Hmong claim they fought in the CIA-backed campaign against the communists in Laos. They were left to fight on their own after the US withdrew in 1975 and later fled Laos after crackdowns by Vientiane. They say they would not be safe if sent back to Laos.

The Hmong refugees, including children, women and the elderly, are now living on the roadside, about 5km from Huay Nam Khao village in Khao Kho. They use canvas sheets for protection from the sun and rain after they were evicted from bamboo houses they had built in the village ahead of Monday's deadline for land-owners to expel them or face charges for sheltering illegal immigrants. The charges carry maximum penalties of five years in prison and a 50,000-baht fine.Yonglee sae Lor, 43, was among the refugees who threatened to stab themselves to death if sent back to Laos. Their move came after Yiawa sae Li, 40, unsuccessfully tried to kill himself using poison.

''If we return to Laos, all of us will die. If we have to die, me and my fellow Hmong want to die here in Thailand,'' Mr Yonglee said, adding hundreds of the Hmong would kill themselves if forced to go back.

He claims to be a son of Bashaw sae Lor who served the CIA and was killed by Lao soldiers in 1971. He said he feared torture by Lao troops if he is sent back.Mr Yiawa who took poison but was saved by doctors on Monday said: ''If we are sent back to Laos, my wife, children and I will take poison and die together because we don't know what to live for.''He admitted he and his family had only fled Laos in April this year.

A National Human Rights Commission subcommittee on ethnic minority rights yesterday issued a statement asking the authorities to postpone the forced relocation and come up with measures that respect the Thai constitution.

Thanongsak On-aim, head of the hilltribe development centre in Ban Khek Noi of Khao Kho, said he sympathised with the Hmong, but must follow government policy. He said he awaited a provincial order to find them temporary shelter or send them somewhere else.Sub-Lt Pajai sae Ma, 57, the Hmong leader who says he is a former CIA soldier, said he believed many Hmong would kill themselves if they were deported.

''Now, we, the Hmong, have no one to turn to. We know we entered this country illegally, but we want the Thai government and the UN to give us humanitarian help and let us stay on or go to third countries. Please don't deport us to Laos because we've just run away from there. We'll die if we go back there,'' he said.

Hmong 'will be forced back'

No chance of US home for thousands of evicted refugees

Monday, July 04, 2005

quick notes on a trip to 3 orphanages in and around Saigon:

the first one was an all-girls orphanage in a small Vietnamese town that feels like a little like a western film set (unpaved roads, small one story storefronts that look 2-dimensional, and instead of horses, motorcycles.) the orphanage housed around 150 girls who slept on small bunk beds (no mattresses) and played with toys donated by Americans like me. i caught myself thinking about "bad education" and wondered about how often i use film-images as memory.

the second one was in a temple with a grass-leaf roof. it's a house of the parentless that spanned many species – boys, puppies, kittens, and monkeys. the head monk built a water collecting reservoir because theriver by the town is too polluted to drink. this is the water that will feed and bathe the townspeople. they gave me a cup of ice-water with sweet bamboo in it, and it was the first time in my life i understood where the water i'm drinking was coming from. felt very humbled and grateful to drink it. it tasted so so so sweet.

last orphanage was in the middle of the city, in a small alley where grandmothers sit around and roast corn on the street. it was an orphanage for the blind run by a blind man, and the children learn how to play musical instruments and perform massages. they want to make sure they can earn a living when they grow old enough to leave. i was in small a dark room with green tiles and zithers(?) on the wall and two blind boys playing an electronic piano. felt too guilty to take a picture! but tried hard to memorize everything: a bubbly boyhead-bobbing to the music, a girl who looked at me right in the eyeand smiled. the tightness of the space, the coolness in the temperature. i thought back to "happy times," and then the fox-face biker who offered to take me to a massage parlor the night before, and i suddenly wished i took more sociology classes in berkeley (why did i study the buildings but not the people inside them?) The only blind friend i had was a Japanese girl I met in Japan.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Riding on Hai's baby blue Minsk (vroooom!) through a light rain in Hanoi made me wonder why so many people want wings when they can just have wheels, and that maybe birds are jealous of us.

But sometimes, you need to slow down, and get to know a city at the pace of your feet. This morning I got up at 5 am and took a jog around the West Lake, Hanoi's sky just waking up, looking just like skim milk. It was raining and I jogged behind shirtless (healthier) old men, and with my stretches I tried to make my body look like the trees and multicolored buildings sprouting across the lake. There's so much to take in here, and I want my body to memorize this place, I want to look at my fingers and remember them clutching a giant jack fruit, I want to put on my vans and remember walking on water puddles in a meat market, bloody beef and pig heads all around me.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Disappeared into Hue and wore the night like a t-shirt. Found my way to a little forest by the river, Christmas lights hanging across trees like the leaves were playing jump rope. There’s a hut with no walls that also serves as a coffee shop. I got a cold milk coffee and smoked two cigarettes by the river. When the lights went out, I saw the stars light up, and I realized that you were probably waking up at that very same moment.

No moon tonight, no romance either. I biked back to the hotel and passed by old ladies burning paper for the dead and herds of men sitting by a small television set watching the Germany-Mexico soccer match. This city is neither my home nor my stranger; just a town that gets dark at night, refreshingly free from neon signs, with bits and pieces that taste a little like Berkeley and Oakland. A restaurant by a bridge feels like the Smokehouse on Telegraph Avenue, and a late night walk I took with Jimmy and whitemike for burgers and shakes.

(Tan asked me where I got my bike. I paid a cyclo driver to let me bike him around town. And then I bought him a Coke.)

Friday, July 01, 2005

hue is a kiss on the lips, a big fat wet one, with teeth marks. it’s raining now like cats and dogs (or should i say puppies? i’ve seen puppies so thin i could probably mail one to you in an envelope.) this city is a relief, soothing like cold milk coffees and taro ches. the crispy pancakes with bean sprouts and peanut sauce is the breakfast of champions.

i visited the home my grandfather grew up in, and i tried to breathe the air in slowly, imaging that slipping on my grandfather’s youth was as easy as putting on an old coat for the first time. maybe my grandfather as a four year old skipped and screamed through here the same way i did through parking lots in hong kong, or maybe not, maybe not. rediscovering family past is never quite as quick as a plane (or motorcycle) ride. i learned: my grandfather loves hue just before it rains, and that his favorite flowers are water lilies, something that grows tall from the mud.